Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen, Don Bartlett (translator) and Don Shaw (translator)

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Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen, Don Bartlett (translator) and Don Shaw (translator)

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Madeline Wheatley
Reviewed by Madeline Wheatley
Summary: An evocative memoir of childhood set in Norway in the early 1960's.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 276 Date: May 2011
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 978-0857050182

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1961 was a year of change, a time, as Jacobsen puts it, when men became boys and housewives women. At the outset Finn and his mother are leading a quiet, rather timorous life in a working class Oslo suburb. Then change overwhelms them, not through world events, but in the form of a mysterious child who is Finn's half sister. Linda is not like other children and Finn's attempt to deal with her impact on his family is the central thread in this quintessential story of growing up.

You can't help liking Finn. Even when his behaviour takes him seriously off the rails… In fact, what makes him such an appealing character is probably his recording of those moments that you know would make most people hold their head in their hands and groan on remembering them as an adult. The family is seen through Finn's eyes and the child's attempts to make sense of the adult world are movingly drawn. The potential for misunderstanding between child and adult is a theme that runs through the book and supplies several twists in the tale.

Don Bartlett and Don Shaw have translated Child Wonder from the original Norwegian while retaining a strong Nordic feel. The use of flowing lengthy sentences adds an element of stream of consciousness to Finn's recollections. At first I found this interrupted my reading as I had to revisit sections to absorb the meaning. Then, as I slowed my pace, I found the style lulled me into Finn's world. Jacobsen appeals to all the senses in his recreation of Finn's childhood. Sounds and scents that are redolent of place play their part alongside the mention of nostalgic objects such as Matchbox toys. Events such as Finn's nightmarish skiing expedition or the family's summer holiday seem particularly vivid because of this appeal to the senses.

This is a book that specialises in interlacing ideas and that do not offer simple resolutions for its characters. I suspect that if you ask two different readers what the title Child Wonder means, you may well get two different answers. Try it and let the Bookbag know what you think.

Thank you to the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion:

For further contemporary Norwegian literature try: Novel 11, Book 18 by Dag Solstad

Don Bartlett also translates Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo's books; try Nemesis, The Redeemer or The Snowman.

Buy Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen, Don Bartlett (translator) and Don Shaw (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen, Don Bartlett (translator) and Don Shaw (translator) at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen, Don Bartlett (translator) and Don Shaw (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen, Don Bartlett (translator) and Don Shaw (translator) at Amazon.com.


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